George Zimmerman Prepared to Flee U.S. With $130,000 Judge Says

ABC News
George Zimmerman Prosecution May Use TV Interview as Evidence
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George Zimmerman Prosecution May Use TV Interview as Evidence (ABC News)

George Zimmerman was preparing to flee the U.S. with his wife and $130,000 donated by supporters while he was out of jail on bond awaiting his murder trial for the death of Trayvon Martin, a Florida judge wrote today.

Zimmerman, whose bail was raised to $1 million, "was preparing to flee to avoid prosecution, but such plans were thwarted," Judge Kenneth Lester wrote in the bond order released today.

Lester berated Zimmerman for misleading the court about how much money he and his wife had stashed in bank accounts. In June, prosecutors proved to the court that Zimmerman had tried to appear indigent to the judge, when in reality he had hundreds of thousands of dollars that supporters had donated to help his legal defense.

Lester said that Zimmerman "flaunted the system," by misleading the court about how much cash he and his wife had in bank accounts.

Zimmerman was out on $150,000 bond when the ruse was discovered by prosecutors. He had been charged in April with second-degree murder for killing the unarmed 17-year-old in February.

Zimmerman quickly created a website through which supporters could donate money to go toward his defense fund. Lester said it was easy to conclude that Zimmerman was going to use the money raised through the website to flee.

"It is entirely reasonable for this court to find that, but for the requirement that he be placed on electronic monitoring, the defendant and his wife would have fled the United States with at least $130,000 of other people's money," Lester wrote.

Prosecutors declined to comment on Lester's order, and Zimmerman's attorney, Mark O'Mara, could not be immediately reached for a comment.

Lester ordered today that Zimmerman could only be released from jail now if he could come up with $1 million bond, which Zimmerman may be able to do by drawing on the more than $200,000 in donations and paying 10 percent to a bail bondsman.

Lester's decision comes after a hearing last week in which Zimmerman's lawyers tried to establish that their client might have thought he had suffered a "life-threatening injury."

Zimmerman has said that he shot the unarmed teenager after being knocked down, having his head banged on the pavement and then believing that Martin was going for Zimmerman's handgun.

Zimmerman's father testified at the hearing and identified his son's voice as the male voice yelling for help in the background of a 911 call recording that was played in court.

Ambulance workers who treated Zimmerman on the night of the shooting told the court that Zimmerman's head was covered in blood after the shooting, and that the lacerations on his head "would probably need stitches."

In addition, a forensic accountant for the defense, Adam Magill, walked the court through the donations to Zimmerman's legal defense fund.

Under cross examination, however, accountant Adam Magill testified that Zimmerman and his wife had shifted about $132,000 between four accounts, often transferring sums of $9,999. Transfers of $10,000 or more are required to be noted by banks and a prosecutor suggested it was intended "to make it look like he didn't have the money."

Zimmerman's attorney Mark O'Mara said Zimmerman's credibility will now be a major issue which he will have to address.

O'Mara also argued for the bond last week, telling the judge that the prosecution had a weak case against his client.

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